Winterizing Your Apartment

The last thing any renter wants during winter’s fiercest months is a drafty, cold apartment. But unfortunately, those apartments do exist. Maybe you picked up the keys to a beautiful high-rise corner unit in July, only to find out later that it gets hammered by every meteorological event coming out of the north and east. Or, you could have fallen in love with the space of a first-floor three-bedroom apartment that has persistent cold spots no matter how much you crank up the thermostat. (Some of those issues can be identified by a good apartment inspection).

Fortunately, there are many cost-effective measures you can take to winterize, if not truly winter-proof, your apartment. Rental agreements vary on what types of adjustments you're allowed make to your unit, of course, and you should always check with your landlord before doing any maintenance or repairs not outlined in your lease. But consider these tips aimed at keeping the warmth in and irritating drafts out.

If you sit, shivering, huddled over your dinner while the candles on the table flicker wildly, you could have heat loss due to drafts. And since cold air sinks while warm air rises, if you have an air leak coming from the outside through an exposed wall, you’ve got cold air constantly seeping into your apartment, pushing heated air up and eventually out via the same, or a similar, leak. For those who pay their own heating bills, it’s like throwing out money through an ill-fitting balcony sliding door.

Locate source of drafts

In order to eliminate drafts, you first have to locate them. Seal your apartment off as much as possible on a fairly windy day. Close all windows, doors and air vents and check for air leaks with a lit stick of incense or dampened hand. By observing where a plume of smoke is sharply disturbed or your hand feels a sudden chill, you can find the source of many drafts. Now that you know where the draft is coming from, utilize the insulation tips below to reduce, if not eliminate, heat loss due to air leaks.

Possible Solution: Hang insulated drapes and window sheeting insulation

You can stop many drafts dead in their tracks by simply putting up insulated drapes. Most are designed to not only keep the warmth in your apartment during winter months, but also to keep the sun’s glaring heat out during summer months. This makes their cost a double investment in comfort and energy savings. In addition, by installing easily removable plastic insulation over your windows, you’re far more likely to see your heating bills dip while indoor temperatures rise.

Possible Solution: Install a digital thermostat

The first step, obviously, is to determine if you have control of the heat in your apartment via thermostat. If your landlord controls the heat for the entire building, a project like this wouldn't be an option. This is definitely a project to discuss with your landlord, but it’s also a huge money and energy saver. In most cases, we regularly leave our apartments for hours on end to work, study and play. With a digital thermostat, you can program temperature changes to accommodate your comfort levels when you’re home, but save big by letting the apartment’s ambient temperature dip when you’re not at home. 

Possible Solution: Use floor and wall coverings

Shop creatively for carpet remnants, discontinued fabrics and other materials that come cheaply by the foot. Even one carpet or woven wall design can do a great deal to insulate floors and keep walls from letting out heat. Plus, each piece has the potential to add splashes of color to your home throughout the long nights of winter. 

Possible Solution: Run a humidifier

Low humidity (dry air) can leave rooms and inhabitants cold and chilled to the bone, because perspiration evaporates more quickly. But with a little water vapor in the air, the heat of any room is more conducive to keeping people and their apartments comfortable, never mind your new leather couch from cracking! Of course, don't over-do it, as high humidity may also make you feel chilled, and high humidity for an extended period can cause mildew. According to HowStuffWorks.com, the desirable level of humidity is between 40 and 50 percent.

Possible Solution: Practice low-tech solar savings

Many of our grandparents knew exactly when to open the curtains in any room to get the maximum solar warmth of the sun. Yet in our modern professional lives, we often leave for work in the pre-dawn hours, leaving drapes drawn and rooms dark for the day. On your next day at home, observe your morning and afternoon light. Open curtains to let in the sun’s warmth, and watch what happens naturally to your rooms’ temperatures.

Winterizing your apartment is important to your personal health and budget. Follow these tips to have a winter that hopefully won’t make you shiver at home or at the bank.

This guest post comes from the editors of The Allstate Blog, which helps people prepare for the unpredictability of life.

Sources: http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=diy.diy_locating_leaks; http://energy.gov/energysaver/articles/detecting-air-leaks; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ft33T82ud8o